Interview with Passenger

Mike Rosenberg / Passenger by Mila Austin

Mike Rosenberg / Passenger by Mila Austin ©

British singer-songwriter Mike Rosenberg – aka Passenger, is widely known for having reached global success in 2012 with the hit song Let Her Go that topped charts in 16 countries and sold 9 million copies worldwide.

He then put out at least one album a year for the following decade; 13th record Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted which is all about breakups and the feelings and emotional whims that come with the end of a love story, charted at number 2 in the UK in 2021 and offered the opportunity to arrange this interview.

Born and bred in 1984 in Brighton, UK, Mike spent years busking in England and Australia in his twenties, he then formed and dissolved several indie bands and was also granted an Ivor Novello Award in 2014.
He is in today for a quick chat about music, life, hopes and the football team he supports.

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Mike, what achievements are you most proud of?

I think at this stage I’m just really proud of the body of work that’s growing. Songs for the Drunk and Broken Hearted is my 13th album and I’m certainly not stopping yet! You know, I’m not the first songwriter to write an album during or after a breakup, haha – but I’m so lucky to be able to pour all of those feelings into songs. It’s stuff that everyone has to go through and I guess we all need to find a way of dealing with it; mine has always been making music… music means everything to me.

How do you feel when you hear one of your songs playing on the radio?

Haha, I still find it very funny, I never thought it would happen!

Which one of your songs are you most attached to?

I think it’s the ballads and the story songs. They seem to stand the test of time best – songs like Travelling Alone and To Be Free.

Where did the name /Passenger. come from?

It was a long time ago. I was in a band at the time and we were struggling to come up with a name, so I wrote a song called Passenger and we all agreed that it sounded like a great band name. It didn’t really mean too much at the time but now I feel like I’ve grown into it and it fits perfectly!

Do you believe a band could potentially never split? What does it take to stick together?

Bands are difficult… dealing with different personalities and opinions all the time, especially if money and success enter into it. I think it’s possible for a band not to split, but it demands a huge amount of patience and understanding from everyone. I love being a solo artist. It means I can make decisions quickly and be very flexible, which is so important in music.

What was your dream job as a child? Did you have a plan B?

Haha, there was never a plan B, this has always been the only thing I ever wanted to do. But I guess working with animals would be great, too!

What have you learned from your time busking in Australia?

I’ve learned so much about music and performing, but also about life. You see a lot of things and meet a lot of people and I think this taught me a lot about being a decent human being.

Who are your biggest influences in music and life?

I’d say a good musical and life influence is Ed Sheeran. We’ve been friends for a really long time and he is a constant inspiration to me.

What music genre fits you best?

It’s always difficult to say – I always describe myself as an acoustic-folky singer-songwriter.

What do you think of today’s music?

Like at any time in history, I think there is both good and bad music. I think there will always be people trying to make music for the right reasons such as art and expression, and then there are people in it only for money and fame. But for the most part, you can hear the difference pretty quickly.

What kind of music do you listen to, these days?

I’m a bit of an old man, I love artists like Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. Two more contemporary artists I love are Foy Vance and Gregory Alan Isakov.

Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?

So many. I think collaborating is the best thing you can do as an artist, it just keeps you learning… Paul Simon would be the dream for me!

What do you think of talent shows like The X Factor?

I think they can be great depending on what you want to get out of them. I think if you want a 30-year career in music and creative freedom, then it’s probably not the route you should take, but it’s still a great way to reach a lot of people very quickly.

Why do you support Arsenal F.C.? You are from Brighton.

Haha, good question! For many years Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club was in a very low division, so everyone I went to school with supported our local team but also had a favourite Premier League team, so I watched Arsenal beating Sheffield Wednesday in the 1993 FA Cup Final… and the rest is history!

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